Author:- Laxmi Soni , Vivekanand Global University, Jaipur
The main function of the judiciary system is not just to resolve disputes but also to protect justice. Today the whole world is suffering from unprecedented pandemic covid-19.All the work of the whole world has stopped. The pillars of the world’s largest democracy country India were also not untouched by this. India’s justice delivery system was affected by this. But once the lockdown was announced it’s initiated by the court that the functioning of the court can’t be suspected. The access to justice can’t be suffer in this lockdown ,whatever be the circumstances. The criminal justice system can not be functions without court.
According to National judicial data grid (NJDG)just about 70%of cases are pending in Indian court are criminal cases. The NATIONAL JUDICIAL DATA GRID (NJDG) provides data on the number of cases pending and disposed of by courts across India. Therefore the closing of the court for months may delay the disposal of cases in the justice system in India.
Current CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde held a meeting on 15th March 2020,where he discussed the performance of video conferencing in courts.
So, the Supreme court judge and Chairman of e- committee, justice DY chandrachud took the initiative in this regard As per Article 142 the supreme court directed Subordinate courts to prepare a mechanism for the use of technology during this epidemic by virtual courts.
Article- 142 of the Indian constitution allows the supreme court to pass any order necessary to do complete justice in any case. Under this article the supreme court has jurisdiction pass any decree or order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.
Therefore, from 25 March 2020 the court has been trying to resolve urgent cases through virtual courts using video conferencing. This method was adopted to follow the social distancing measures and protect the lives of litigants and public also.
Virtual court is a concept through which the physical presence of litigants and lawyers is eliminated and the case is adjourned online. It’s also a technology – based system that is completely dependent on the Internet. The lawsuit is settled online using information and communication technology (ICT)internet without being presented in court.
E-courts are a sub-category of virtual courts, as they use websites and components to aid the functioning of virtual courts. Websites like e- Filing, through which citizens can file their case from home, check real time case status ,make court fee payments via e -pay facility various other software used for computerization of the legal system can be called a part of e -court .
Benefits of e-court –
1. E-court will expedite the resolution of cases and citizens will get speedy justice.
2. Infrastructure related expenses of courts will come down.
3. The Court cases will be reduced.
4. Ensuring easy and affordable access to justice for citizens.
The first virtual court of Delhi was established on 26th july 2019, at the Tis Hazari court. After that, the Punjab and Haryana high court also setup virtual court at Faridabad and this court deals in traffic challan cases of Haryana. It was established by supreme court .
Merits of virtual courts –
1. Cost effective- The virtual courts are highly profitable as compared to physical court. It reduces on the costs associated with manpower and paperwork. The virtual courts save huge amounts of money court related expenses such as spending on infrastructure, staff and security etc. Along With this they also save the travelling expenses and time.
2. Security of the witnesses- In many cases, the witnesses are not able to come to the court and make their statement as the other party is too strong and scares them to the consequences. E -court can help in dealing with such cases.
3. Transprenairy and accountability- Virtual courts can bring transparency and accountability in the justice system as it can prove helpful in dealing with long pending cases in India. The e- court or virtual courts can bring a better improvement in the judicial system of India.
Disadvantage of virtual courts-
Everything has its advantages and disadvantages. There are many problems related to the applicability and authenticity of the evidences produced before the court, identity of witnesses etc. Even the confidentiality of court proceedings shall be at risk because, in the end, the whole setup involves the use of technology and various other software and tools that might possess some threats related to security and privacy data .
. Accessibility to justice- generally, many people think that online proceedings or virtual courts would grant comprehensive access to justice as contained under Article 39A Of the Indian constitution, because of availability of internet is general. But this will be possible only when everyone can understand the online process well. People think that we should use technology through virtual courts in the judicial system as factual data shows that between 2017 - 2020, Internet penetration in India was increase from 4 ,37 million to 5,64 million . Internet users are expecting around 6 million in 2021, so the Internet's penetration base in the country is growing.
But the other side , According to the Telecom Regulatory Agency of India (TRAI) shows that India has 51.71 % internet users. The 66 % part of total population lives in villages but only 27 %only has access to internet and 25.3% Indian has access to internet. So somewhere in the virtual court seems a bit incomplete. Most of people are unware of technology and its nuance. Along with it the young lawyers fails to learn practically.
After analysing everything we can be understand that every crisis come with an opportunity. An opportunity that inspires us to move forward. Even after there are flaws in virtual courts ,it is very helpful to resolve the cases during this pandemic. But There is no scope for virtual courts replacing the existing system permanently but there is some scope for supplementary existing systems .virtual court can’t take replace of open court hearings.